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Best Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring Managerial Candidates

Carlos Acosta | 19.03.2021

Interviews reveal so much more about a potential hire, than a résumé alone ever could. It’s important to consider that when hiring managerial or supervisory roles, the interview questions you ask are significantly different from those you ask for front-liners.

Interviews reveal so much about a potential hire, far more than a résumé alone ever could. When hiring managerial or supervisory roles, interview questions are different from those you would normally use for office front-liners.

For managers, you need to get a feel of their management style and their personality, on top of learning more about their experience, knowledge, and skills. Here are a few suggested questions to ask when interviewing managerial candidates:

Essential Interview Questions

The following questions help you assess the managerial skills and experience of a candidate. These may also be partly behavioral questions, as they give you insight into what successes and failures mattered most to the applicant and helped them shape their career.

1. How many years have you worked as a manager?
2. What were your exact duties and responsibilities in your previous job?
3. How many employees reported to you directly in your last managerial position?
4. What was the most rewarding aspect of your last job/s? What was the least rewarding aspect?

Behavioral Interview Questions

Questions that unravel a candidate’s soft skills are the most valuable in an interview. You need to assess whether an applicant’s personality and values fit well with the organization’s work culture. It must be noted, however, that the following questions may overlap with one another:

1. Management skills:

  • How do you describe your management style?
  • How would the people reporting to you describe your management style?
  • What values do you think are important in a manager?
  • What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a manager?

2. Communication/empathy/people skills:

  • How have you dealt with underperforming/difficult employees under your charge?
  • How have you rewarded an employee’s excellent performance?
  • How have you've developed relationships with new colleagues?
  • How have you provided direction and leadership in your previous teams?

3. Time management/decision-making skills/flexibility

  • What do you think are the most difficult decisions to make as a manager?
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a difficult situation with a major client. How did you approach this? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to significantly change or reorganize your team’s work assignments. How did you approach the task and handle the affected employee’s reactions?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a challenging task at hand but you had limited resources (e.g., time, staff, money, etc.). How did you handle the pressure? How did you overcome the challenge?

4. Culture fit

  • How would you describe the work environment/culture of your last job?
  • What do you think are the most significant contributions of a manager in the workplace? How have you demonstrated these in your previous managerial jobs?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead an initiative that went against your values. How did you approach this and what was the outcome?

Cultural nuances and why they matter during interviews

Interviewing managerial candidates can be a bit tricky, and the interview questions highly depend on what industry your business belongs to and the actual job itself. Most industry sectors have their own unique industry-relevant dynamics and culture. While such sector specific dynamics can be important, it is often more important to consider a candidate’s ability to adapt and work with others. Therefore, we cannot understate how important it is to consider cultural nuances when interviewing candidates.

The QualiFind Group has a long track record of recruiting for multinational organizations. Our recruiters understand that your interview questions may need to be nuanced depending upon the culture of our client employer, their organizational culture and the cultural fluency of candidates being considered. You simply cannot apply boilerplate interview questions without considering the culture of the candidate and that of the employer’s organization.

Here are some cultural perspectives provided by some of our recruiters. Feel free to reach out to me if you have additional questions for other countries.

Brazil

Fabiana Zanini is our senior recruiter in Sao Paulo and she emphasizes the importance of gauging how managerial candidates acquire and measure trust with each other. Within the Brazilian culture, trust among working colleagues is often built on a personal basis around sharing emails or meeting for coffee. Fabiana emphasizes that work relationships are often slower to evolve. She says that Brazilians often gain a deeper level of trust through both sharing personal time with each other as well as knowing others well who trust you. When they gain that, they gain their individual trust in you. She states that if you are interviewing candidates with a Brazilian cultural background, that you may want to consider juxtaposing interview questions that are task-based against some that are relationship-based.

Canada

Our very own Colin Campbell in Toronto says that a candidate’s soft skills are equally important to their technical skills. A strong manager needs to understand different cultural paradigms in order to avoid issues and maintain a harmonious workplace. Canada is a culturally diverse country and therefore screening for soft skills with a cultural nuance can often be more challenging.

Mexico

Our recruiter in Guadalajara – Xochilt Acosta encourages asking questions about how candidates handle controversy and / or difficult work performance-related issues. Mexican culture places a high degree of importance on interpersonal relationships which can come into direct conflict when handling or passing along bad news. If you are interviewing candidates for hire that have grown up within the Mexican culture, you may want to consider asking direct questions that would solicit an un-rehearsed response.

Laura Gonzalez from our Tijuana office says that gaining a sense of candidate’s views on hierarchy is also very important. Status within Mexican culture has long been considered important. If you are considering hiring for a flat or matrixed organization, you should be aware that culture in Mexico places a high degree of status on distance between a boss and subordinate. Laura encourages asking questions about whether a manager is hands-on or if they’re the type of person that works through others. Organizations in Mexico are often multilayered and fixed and the appearance of having a large number of subordinates or assistants may play a larger role than is required to meet business needs.

Singapore

Our partner in Singapore – Monicca Yan explains that scheduling related issues are one of the cultural variations from her country. If interviewing for a multinational company involving either a hiring manager or a candidate from Singapore, she never overlooks interview questions involving the importance or prioritization of scheduling or time management. Monicca explains that project management is more often approached in a sequential manner or completing one task before moving on to the next. Managers from her culture place a high degree of importance on the deadline and sticking to a pre-established schedule with emphasis on promptness and being well organized versus being flexible.

United States

The US like many Western countries are considered low-context cultures whereas Latin American cultures are high-context. This essentially translates that you may need to read more into responses from Latin candidates. For example, trust as mentioned for Brazilians (and comparably for Mexicans) is gained through establishing a personal relationship whereas in the US, trust is built through business or work-related activities. Relationships with colleagues in the US come and go and are based on the practicality of the situation. If you consistently produce good work, are reliable and people enjoy working with you, then trust often quickly follows.

The key in all of this is to prepare yourself for the next time you interview a managerial candidate. Don’t leave things to chance. Ask the tough questions and the follow-up questions to discern if the candidate best meets your criteria for hire.

Assessing the best managerial candidate for your organization

The QualiFind Group can be a valuable resource to ensuring your next hire is your BEST NEXT HIRE. If you feel that you need more direction in assessing your potential hires or your recruitment process as a whole, we are here to help you. The QualiFind Group offers professional headhunting and recruitment services throughout the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico as well as globally through our partners in IRC Global Executive Search Partners. Let us help you assess and hire the best people for your organization. Contact us at https://www.qualifindgroup.com/en/contact/ to get started!

About the author
Carlos Acosta leads the professional and technical recruitment practice – The QualiFind Group. Carlos has 22 years of experience recruiting throughout the US, Mexico and Latin America. Based in San Diego, California; Carlos has dual citizenship in both the US and Mexico. Carlos is the Americas Regional Leader for IRC Global Executive Search Partners and is the Americas Practice Group Leader for IRC’s Industrial / Manufacturing Practice Group. Carlos can be reached at: cacosta@qualifindgroup.com or 619.240.2638

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